James: Today on the show we're going to talk about the things that aren't small that aren't minor but rather large theological or political stances that people bring to the church and you're expected to respond to.
Joanna: In our context we might get questions from e-mail that are from our church congregation or people outside of our church who are just messaging into the church. They want to know what is our stance on a political issue or what do we think of the current political leader. There might be questions from a church member with a big concern about how we use our finances for something or other. There might be questions around what's our position on something like gay marriage in our country. Things that are bigger issues that it's very difficult to navigate the nuances of over an email conversation. And so want to talk a little bit today about how or how I deal with that what our approach is. One of the things first of all is those can come into any staff member. They might come to the youth pastor. They might come to the secretary at the front administrator at the front desk. They come to the senior leader or to all kinds of people. So one of the things we do in general in our churches it simply I want to know about that. I don't know what I don't know as a communications director. So if anyone on our staff gets a message like that I love them to just let me know that it happened. It's the same back to the Google Reviews if someone catches it before I do. It's good to know. It just it's it's good to know what is happening in the climate of our church. And so if we get questions like that the first thing I would like the leader to do is try and get a face to face conversation with that person. But before we do the face to face the first thing that we do is always if we don't recognize who the name of the person is because we're a larger church we go to our database and we want to check some stuff out. Do they even attend our church because sometimes we'll get questions particularly around things that are political or contentious theological issues where people sometimes are just trolling like an example that has recently come there's some people who've sent anonymous emails you know asking around our issues on gender and sexuality in our church and they aren't telling us who they are. And we've come to learn that they don't go to our church. They're just people in the community who are trying to get something to bring to a newsperson actually. So it's a big deal that we respond to those well.
James: They're looking to have an argument and looking to make a point and they're looking to try to make an example of someone that might be opposing their own beliefs that they're looking to have a fight.
Joanna: Yeah it feels a little bit like a lose lose situation. And so how do we deal with that. I mean the first thing is I try with them. You want to try and have a relationship. For me I always say let's write down on paper as little as possible. Write down on email or whatever because the more you write down the more they have ammunition to nit pick and argue about it. There's there's a story of a church in our area who wrote something down in the conversation with someone about a contentious issue that person took a screenshot or photos of that and then they sent it around to local newspapers it was taken totally out of context. It led to the church unfortunately being in the news cycle for a little while but something never had to be in. But if they had said those same things sort of face to face you could hear tone better and itt's harder to screenshot that. I mean you can certainly record a conversation on your phone or something but you know what I'm saying. I'm trying to give less ammunition to someone who's already a bit combative against the church to just have less to argue about. And so that's partly where we want to wherefore we get to face to face with someone we'd love to know what's the history of them with our church so we go into our database and we want to see and that's what we want to keep good notes in the database. Like is this a person who's contacted us before is this a common question or concern that they have. Does this person even attend our church because if they don't it feels like it's it's less likely to get a lot of time and energy into responding than if they do actually go to our church and have a genuine question or concern about something going on where we'd love to have a pastoral meeting with them. And so that's the big takeaway for me. If you're getting real theological questions questions about finances questions about politics the best thing to do is as soon as possible make that a personal and real relational conversation face to face.
James: And I think it's important to start having these conversations amongst yourselves too. It's important for teams to start actually sitting down talking about it and coming up with strategies and a game plan on how to properly deal with it like having some sort of system in place. Like we if this comes in we all need to see it and talk about it because this is just the nature of what being Christian actually is is that you're going to come up against the world at times. Like being a Christian never meant being best friends and agreeing with everyone like you're going to have disagreements. And part of what you believe is at odds with what the world society today tells people yes. So if you haven't felt it yet it is coming like we live in a city Toronto that is very liberal is changing and moving away from religion very fast. And that mentality is spreading especially in North America. So if you live somewhere in the Bible Belt or you live in more traditional Christian cultures it is changing and we know this like we believe this as Christians that it is changing. And so it's important to prepare on how to be honest and respectful and I think we get ourselves into trouble when we're not prepared for things. We aren't prepared for something to happen and then we react. And it's often the reaction that is the thing that looks negative upon Christians. But even if you're slow to react and you react in a proper as you say like meaningful thoughtful way you you limit the amount of trouble that can be caused after the effect.
Joanna: And this is a great example of how we can leverage church media community. There are people who can help you with this. So there have been times where we've gotten questions concerns feedback in that I wasn't exactly sure what to do with and so I'll go to someone who's older and wiser in this sphere of church communication someone maybe from a larger church or someone who I know has dealt with that before and in the confidence of that conversation you know confidential. I'm able to ask them. What's your advice on how we handle this as a church? And it's better to go slow and thoughtfully than just like hotheaded replying to any kind of conversation that's about an issue that really does matter whether they're hacking you or not they like trolling you or not they genuinely want an answer to their question. So we want to be thoughtful and leverage the power of community and expertise beyond ourselves.
James: So if you find yourself kind of starting to think about this and maybe want some more resources or some more guidance in this please like reach out to us. We would be happy to kind of get back to you with some extra resources some extra tips on kind of how to game plan this a little bit.